An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 4 - The Truth

Sorry if the story is moving a tad slowly up to yet. I promise if you bear with me more will happen! I'm just building the foundations of this new reality. Thank you for reading! And please review!

Chapter Four - The Truth

At 8'O clock on Sunday morning an owl was knocking its beak against James and Lily's bedroom window. Lily rushed up to let it in.

"Ahh not again." James grumbled. "Is 9 too late to ask for just one weekend?"

"Be quiet." Lily hissed as she read Dumbledore's letter.

Dearest Lily,

I have been waiting to hear from you. I have been only too aware that Hogwarts is approaching for young Harry. I want to assure you that the staff are very excited to have him and that we are reviewing the school's defences just to be extra careful. Precaution never hurt anyone.

I understand your dilemma. I do agree that it is necessary to give him some information that will prepare him. But perhaps giving him all the information this early isn't wise. He is still young after all.

With yours and James's permission, naturally, I would like to meet with Harry before Hogwarts and give him the necessary information. I shall ask our Hagrid to accompany me, Harry is much more familiar with him and it is important for him to be comfortable and know that he shall be safe at Hogwarts in my care.

Reply by return owl if Monday evening at seven pm is convenient for you all.

My best wishes to you all,

Albus Dumbledore.

Lily immediately sent her reply before even telling James what it was about.

"What was that?" James yawned.

"It was Dumbledore's reply." Lily went back to bed, and gave James the letter.

"Don't you feel a bit like we're blindsiding him?" James asked after reading. "Asking a stranger to dinner who's going to tell him he saved the wizarding world."

"He's hardly a stranger, James."

"Not to us, but he is to Harry." James disagreed. "Sure he knows who Dumbledore is. But he hasn't seen him in person since he was a baby. The man's a stranger to him."

"But that's why he's bringing Hagrid." Lily pointed out. "And I think Dumbledore is right. It'll be good for Harry to be comfortable at Hogwarts once he knows."

James shrugged. "I don't know which bits Dumbledore is planning to leave out."

"The prophecy?"

James sighed. "He's never even told us the prophecy, Lil."

Lily shook back her dark red hair and looked at James. "We made the decision when Harry was born to trust Dumbledore, to trust that he has a plan even if we don't know all of the details." She was quiet while James digested this. "And it's worked out well so far."

James didn't disagree. "But doesn't it kill you not knowing the details? After all he's our son, not Dumbledore's, no one is more interested in his well being than us."

"Of course it does." Lily sighed. "But I trust Dumbledore, and I believe that when the war starts again, Dumbledore will save us all."

"He's only mortal, Lil."

"But he's the closest thing to a God we have." She held James's hand. "And when you're up against Voldemort's evil, you need someone to believe in. And that's Dumbledore."

"And one day Harry."

"And one day Harry." Lily agreed. "But that's not today."

Before she went to work at St Mungo's on Monday morning, Lily told Harry that they were having guests for dinner.

"Who?" He asked, over his cereal. Whilst James searched the kitchen for the papers he put down Friday evening.

"Hagrid," Lily replied, "And Professor Dumbledore."

Harry choked on his breakfast. "Dumbledore?"

"Lily, have you seen those documents." James asked. "Moody will have my arse if I've lost them."

"James!" Lily warned. "They're in the living room on the coffee table. And yes Harry, Dumbledore."

"What? Why?" Harry asked as James went to find his papers.

"Got them!" He announced back in the kitchen. "I'll see you both later tonight." He ruffled Harry's hair, kissed Lily and left for the ministry.

"Yeah, bye. Why is Dumbledore coming over?"

"Because he's our friend." Lily replied checking her watch. "Come on, Harry eat up. I'm going to be late for work."

Lily dropped Harry off at Neville's house, only stopping to wish Augusta well and to take a bunch of flowers from her to put in her son's room.

As his mother departed, Harry told Neville about Dumbledore.

"He's gran's friend too." Neville said glumly. "Bet he won't come and visit me. I barely have magic."

"Neville that's not true." Harry insisted. "We've both got our letters, now." He took Neville by the arm into the garden. "Come on, let's go and find Trevor."

James arrived at work four minutes late. He slipped into his cubicle in the Auror office quietly, hoping to go unnoticed but even as he sat down he heard a gruff voice. "Potter! You were meant to be here at nine, not four minutes past."

James tensed his shoulders "I'm sorry Mr Moody I-" But as James turned round he stopped. It was just Sirius, perched on the cubicle behind him, grinning.

"Alright, mate?"

"Bloody hell you've gotten good at that." James sighed. His heart rate was subsiding. "Where is the old codger?"

"Think he went to see Fudge." Sirius replied.

James had a look at his messages, he was going to have a long day. "Sirius?"

"Um?" Sirius replied, without looking up from his own cubicle.

"Dumbledore's coming round tonight." James whispered.

Sirius looked up. "So tonight's the night?"

James nodded sadly.

"What's he going to say?"

"I have no idea." Sirius clapped James on the back and went back to his work.

James didn't have time to mull over the evening. He was running from pillar to post all day, barely stopping for lunch. At 3'O clock he knocked on the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office door. "Good afternoon, Arthur." James said pleasantly. "Just thought I'd drop off these for you. There have been attacks from a small quasi-death eater group in Trafalgar Square. Apparently they've been bewitching children's toys, yo-yos, to strangle their owners. It's actually pretty nasty stuff. And muggles are your area of expertise."

Unlike other Aurors, James didn't mean that in a derogatory way. Arthur very much liked the younger man, and naturally he knew a lot about him.

"Thank you, James." Arthur replied taking the files from him. "Poor muggles. They don't mean any harm."

"You've never met my in-laws." James replied with a smile. "Not that I'm condoning death by strangulation, although Vernon . . ."

Arthur smiled. He had forgotten Lily was muggle born. How exciting.

"Has Harry got his letter?"

James laughed. "Yes! He hasn't shut up about it since." He shook his head. "Has, is it Ron this time?"

"Yes, yes," Arthur replied pleasantly. "He's very excited. Although between the twins and Percy telling him the dos and don'ts, I don't think he knows whether he's coming or going." James had heard a lot about the twins, they reminded him of two former Hogwarts students.

Lily was also rushed off her feet. She'd had to make a complicated antidote from scratch, working against the clock. It wasn't until almost the end of the day she found time to stop in on Frank and Alice, to deliver the flowers.

Lily was always ashamed of herself that she didn't see them more regularly, but every visit felt like she was back in the war. They were an awful reminder of the cost of bravery. Poor little Neville. She never managed to see them without crying.

"Hello Alice!" Lily put on her most cheerful smile. Her old friend smiled blankly back at her, as Lily put the flowers on her bedside table. "And Frank. You both look well!" They didn't. They looked awful. They were both painfully thin, and drawn. Lily remembered them when they were full and healthy and laughing. She had to hold that image in her mind at all times when she saw them. "I saw your Neville this morning," she said pleasantly. "He and Harry are off to Hogwarts in a few weeks. Can you believe how grown up they're getting? Only seems like yesterday that they were babies." She looked meaningfully at Alice. "We were in the beds next to each other, remember? You had Neville the day before I had Harry." Alice looked blank, and Lily felt as though someone were cutting her insides with a knife. "I think Neville takes after you Frank, even though he looks more like Alice. He's very kind. He's a wonderful boy. You should be very proud." Lily's façade was crumbling and she needed to leave soon. "Well," She said in a much higher pitch. "I just thought that I'd pop in. Augusta will be round to see you tomorrow." She hugged Frank and then Alice. She whispered in her friend's ear how much she missed her. But poor Alice was not living in this world. Lily privately thought it would have been kinder if they had died, kinder for Neville and Augusta, and mostly for her friends who were shells of themselves.

"I saw the Longbottoms today." Lily said quietly to James, whilst Harry was in the other room. "James, it was horrible." Lily could feel her body was ready to start sobbing all over again. James held her until her breathing regulated.

"I don't know how you bear it." He said. "They're not Frank and Alice anymore."

"I wish Augusta would stop comparing Neville to his father. It's not doing him any good." Lily sighed. "Children should be their own person. Frank cast a long shadow, but I know Alice, she wouldn't want Neville to feel like that. She'd want him to find his own path."

"Neville will find his way." James said confidently. "I think Hogwarts will do him good. Being away from Augusta will do him good. I've never forgotten the telling off she gave us when we visited Frank one summer. The woman's frightening."

Lily laughed and kissed him, thanking all her lucky stars that they hadn't ended up like the Longbottoms.

At 7 O'clock sharp. There was a knock on the door.

"They're here!" Harry announced running to tell is parents.

"It'd help if you let them in." James walked to the front door with Harry right behind him.

"James!" Hagrid said heartily, wringing his hands. "Good ter see yeh, good ter see yeh!"

"Hello Hagrid." James laughed.

"And how're you professor?"

"Very well thank you, James." Dumbledore smiled, he blue eyes twinkling. "Although I daresay you can call me Albus now. I haven't been your teacher for many years."

"This one keeps reminding me how old I am." James indicated his son, who was uncharacteristically quiet. "Harry this is Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, the school you haven't shut up about."

"I am delighted to meet you Harry," Dumbledore said, shaking his hand. "I take it you don't remember me."

Harry shook his head. "But I have your chocolate frog card."

Dumbledore chortled. "I do hold that to be my greatest achievement in the wizarding world." James led Dumbledore inside whilst Harry led Hagrid round the back.

"It's good ter see yeh, Harry. How've yeh bin?"

"Alright, thanks. How are you Hagrid?" While Hagrid spoke about his problems with the Centaur community, and his difficulty keeping the salamander population under control, Harry thought about Dumbledore. He understood why his parents seemed to revere him. It wasn't his person, he was very mild and old but he exuded something else, power definitely, but something else too that Harry couldn't quite put his finger on. He was awed by Dumbledore, who was undoubtedly the most interesting wizard that Harry had met, perhaps that he ever would meet.

Harry continued his thoughtful contemplation of Dumbledore all the way through dinner. It was not that Dumbledore intimidated him precisely, nor that he was shy around new people, he was fascinated by this man who complemented his mother and gave his father jovial reprimands for his former school behaviour.

"Now tell me, Harry." Dumbledore addressed him. "Are you looking forward to term?"

"Yes, Sir." Harry nodded.

"Don't take that for lack of enthusiasm, Albus," Lily said smiling at Harry. "It's all he's talked about for weeks."

"It's a very exciting time for a young witch or wizard." Dumbledore said encouragingly. "Harry, you may be wondering why I have come to dine with your lovely family tonight?"

"A bit." Harry said tentatively.

"Well, although it is simply wonderful company. There is a greater purpose." Dumbledore was still smiling and looking Harry directly in the eye. James reached for Liy's hand under the table. This was it. "Your parents have asked me here tonight to discuss your scar."

Harry looked to his parents, confused, but they just smiled encouragingly at him. "I thought my scar was caused by backfiring magic?" Harry asked.

"In a way, it was." Dumbledore nodded. "But our story starts before you were even born."

Harry looked back towards his parents. He was about to hear the whole story, he knew they'd not told him something. All those stupid hats in Diagon Alley.

"Will you tell me the story?" Harry asked earnestly.

Dumbledore smiled gently, and began. "Until a decade ago, the wizarding world was in the midst of a terrible war. A dark and powerful wizard called Lord Voldemort was waging dark magic in order to force the wizarding world under his control. He had particularly strong and despicable views about muggles and even muggle born witches and wizards. Your mother and father, Hagrid, Sirius, Remus and myself were all fighting him, along with many other good people. But our efforts were not looking hopeful. One day, I received the knowledge that your mother and father were being specifically targeted by Voldemort. You had just been born. With the help of their friends, they were hidden in this very house by a charm, and you all stayed that way for over a year. Until we discovered that we had a traitor. He told Voldemort where you were hiding and came looking for you. Luckily, we had some forewarning of the traitor, and so we were prepared for the attack. Rather than fight, as we were sure to lose, we deceived him. Your mother and father took a draught of a potion that gave them the appearance of being dead, but before your potion could be administered he arrived. Lord Voldemort was furious that his quarries had died and in his anger, tried to kill you, an innocent child. Except, he couldn't. The spell rebounded and destroyed him, leaving you with your scar and freeing the wizarding world from his tyranny. Harry, you saved the wizarding world."

Lily and James had been watching Harry anxiously throughout Dumbledore's narrative. He didn't show a trace of fear. Only surprise.

"You're joking?" Harry asked, looking round the table. "This is to get me to stop asking about my scar right?"

"No, sweetheart." Lily said sadly.

"So this lord voldy-thing, he's dead now?" Harry asked, running his hands through his hair.

"I believe not." Dumbledore said solemnly. "He is just decimated. He will return one day."

"Will he come after me?"

"It is likely that he will try." Dumbledore said gravely. "But we will do everything in our power to protect you. Just as we did before."

Harry opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again, thinking better of it. "Why are you telling me this now?"

Lily and James looked at each other. Lily spoke. "Because sweetheart, the story is well known. You saved the world, the world knows your name. We needed to tell you why."

"I'm famous?" Harry shook his head. "Don't be silly. How could I be famous? Neville's never mentioned this. And surely if I were famous he'd have heard of me."

"Mate, Neville is perhaps the only other wizarding child that doesn't know. Given what happened to you, and what happened to his parents, we wanted to raise you both as normally as possible. But we can't keep it from you any longer." James said gently. "We want you to be prepared."

"It is also important you appreciate the danger of your past." Dumbledore added. "And we do not mean to scare you, we mean to make you exercise caution. To value your safety."

Harry fell silent. He'd heard so much information this evening. Voldemort had tried to kill him but couldn't, he was famous, and Voldemort would come for him once again. That summed everything up. He felt surprised, and oddly tired. He wasn't a normal boy, but he felt normal. Everyone would know his name. What if they expected him to be great? He didn't know he had expectations to meet. Harry began to have an inkling of what Neville must feel like everyday.

"Yeh see Harry," Hagrid said. "Professor Dumbledore an' meself wanted ter come here ternight ter make sure yeh know yer'll be safe at Hogwarts with us. Once yeh mum an' dad aren' with yeh."

Harry nodded. "Thanks Hagrid." He looked up to Professor Dumbledore. "Thank you too, Professor." Harry got to his feet. "I think I'm going to go to bed. Goodnight." He walked swiftly past his parents without looking at them and went straight up the stairs.

Hagrid looked round the quiet table. "All things considered, I think tha' went pretty well."

James stared straight at Dumbledore. "There were some pretty big holes in the story, Albus."

"I don't feel it would be good for Harry to know more at this point, of course, as his parents you are welcome to overrule me."

Lily sighed. "We didn't ever want him to know any of this. I understand he can't not know. But how do we keep changing the story? Every time he gets a little older we have to tell him more?"

"My dearest Lily," Dumbledore took her hand. "We will tell Harry the exact truth only when Voldemort returns and it becomes essential that he knows. He deserves to remain a child longer."

James and Lily nodded. There was nothing that they wanted more.

Lily tried to talk to Harry that night but he didn't answer when she knocked on his door.

"Leave him for a bit." James advised. He thought if he'd just had his world turned upside down, he too would want some time on his own.

James and Lily didn't talk in bed that night. Lily turned out the light and they both lay there wide awake. "Do you think he hates us?"

"No." James said with all his conviction. "We just need to give him some time."

But they didn't have to give him much time. Ten minutes later there was a small knock on their bedroom door. Lily quickly turned on the lights and told Harry to come in. He stood there nervously at first before climbing on to the end of their bed. He felt distanced from them.

"Sorry if I woke you up." Harry said, looking mostly at James.

He gave a half smile. "We weren't asleep mate. Are you alright?"

Harry shrugged. He wasn't sure. He felt a bit overwhelmed, but he wasn't particularly emotional about any of it, he wasn't sad and he certainly wasn't scared.

"It's a lot to take in." Lily said quietly. "We're sorry we didn't tell you sooner."

Harry nodded. He appreciated that.

"What's bothering me most," he said slowly, "is that people might expect me to be something special, and I'm not, I'm just normal, a funny thing just happened to me when I was a baby, is all."

Lily patted the space between her and James in the bed and Harry snuggled in and both parents held his hands.

"You can only be yourself." James said, squeezing his hand. "We don't need you to be top of every class or perform daring stunts. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks either."

"We think you're pretty special though." Lily said quietly, and she kissed the top of his head.

Harry slept between his parents that night. And in the morning, for the first time since he knew about Hogwarts, he wasn't sure that he was ready to leave them.

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